Huatulco Life was inspired by people with a passion for Huatulco and the Mexican lifestyle. It is a place to find out more information about the region and enjoy the beauty of the Oaxacan coastline through the photo gallery. From time to time, other interesting tidbits about Mexico make their way into the pages of this blog. Enjoy!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Summer in Huatulco - Part 1

Today's post is from Renée Netzel

The Chicatanas are back!

When the first rains occur in Oaxaca during the months of May and June, not only do they provide welcome relief from the humidity and heat but it also marks the time when the flying ants, called Chicatanas,  begin to leave their nests to mate. There are lots of winged male ants and only a few winged females - the queens. Once mating takes place the females fly off to start a new ant colony, but the males simply die...and they can be seen all over the sidewalks and streets in Huatulco. They are the size and shape of wasps but when you look up close they are clearly ants, despite their inch-long wings.

However, in doing some research on these rather large flying creatures, I learned the real value of the Chicatanas is closely related to the local cuisine. In Oaxaca, people very much enjoy the taste of Chicatana salsas.

At dawn the Chicatanas leave their nests, perhaps to escape the flooding during the heavy rains. However they leave their nests only to be captured by people who have waited very patiently for the right time, when the first rains come. The locals gather near lamp posts in the streets where they can catch them more easily as the ants are attracted to the light. They catch them any way they can, some in mid-flight and place them in bags, aprons, or whatever they have on hand.

After collecting them, the Chicatanas are carefully washed and then put on the griddle where they promptly lose their wings. They are then ground in a mortar with garlic, salt and chile until everything is mixed into a consistent paste and made into sauces and salsas.

The Chicatanas were first mentioned in a Mexican encyclopedia from the 16th century where they were referred to as “Tzicatana”. Today, they are an important ingredient in traditional Oaxacan cuisine but they are a fairly expensive, costing around $400 pesos per kilo - about $30 for 2 pounds!

If you ask them to describe the taste of Chicatanas, no one can give you a straight answer. They say the flavor of the Chicatana sauce is hard to just tastes like Chicatanas! However, I am finally told that the sauce, after being smeared on a warm tortilla, tastes almost burnt, spicy and salty....a very particular taste, indeed.

However if you want to experience something that will give you a sense of the flavors and folklore of the ancient and traditional cuisine of Oaxaca, the Chicatanas are something different to try...a unique flavor of Oaxaca, but one that I have not yet worked up the courage to try myself!


  1. I have a bunch at my house if you want them!
    Fun post..

  2. hahahaha what a wonderful article! Indeed, Chicatanas taste like Chicatanas! lol. They are yummy let me tell you!!! Just try 'em with a shot of tequila!